NICOSIA Municipality’s planned introduction of a bus service in the old part of the capital might seem a good idea but it is difficult to see it working or achieving the noble objective of restricting the number of cars within the walls and thus reducing pollution.
What makes the municipality think that Cypriots who drive to the kiosk, round the corner from their house, to pick up a litre of milk, would leave their car at the old GSP car park and take a bus into the old town? If they drove that far they are unlikely to leave their car and take bus for the remaining five minutes of the car journey; rather than pay for the bus fare they would pay for parking in town.
There is an additional problem that the municipality does not seem to have thought about. It is very difficult to find parking spaces in the old GSP area until lunch-time, because most of them are occupied by the cars of the civil servants working in the area. When the old GSP stadium, currently used as parking area, is turned in to a green area as the municipality plans, there will be an even bigger shortage of parking spaces.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, the Mayor of Limassol announced the introduction of a ‘park and ride’ pilot scheme at the weekends aimed at easing traffic congestion in the centre of the town which has been made more acute because of major road works. Free parking would be provided in school yards and other public premises and the bus service would also be free. This scheme has marginally better prospects of achieving its objective because parking and bus rides would be free, even it does not address traffic congestion on weekdays.
Whether people in Limassol will park their car and take the bus is questionable, because they would most probably rather be in their own car when stuck in a traffic jam than on the bus; buses are even slower than cars in traffic jams.
These are noble schemes with worthy objectives, but the reality is that Cypriots love using their cars and shun public transport. This is because distances are relatively short, heavy congestion is rather rare and parking charges are not high. All this applies to the walled part of Nicosia, whose environmentally-friendly buses are more likely to serve tourists than locals. It would be a good service for visitors but the scheme will not reduce the number of cars in the old town and pollution. The only realistic way of achieving this would be to ban cars from the old town altogether but that would trigger a popular revolution.